[EDITORIALS]Airing the dirty laundry

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[EDITORIALS]Airing the dirty laundry

Investigating the illicit election funds of the Roh Moo-hyun campaign for the 2002 presidential election, the prosecution has sought a warrant to detain Our Open Party Representative Lee Sang-soo. That strengthens suspicions surrounding the exact amount of the Roh camp’s election war chest.
Mr. Lee told the media earlier that the Roh campaign raised 18.8 billion won ($15.7 million). That was different from the 14.7 billion won that was reported to the National Election Commission. That is also different from the 17-billion-won figure cited earlier by Our Open Party in talks with prosecutors. The prosecution should clear up the discrepancy.
Separately, Mr. Lee told reporters last month that the campaign was funded partly with money provided by Mr. Roh’s supporters. Mr. Lee said Ahn Hee-jung was the channel for the money in most cases. That increases the amount of illicit money that should be included in the Roh election funds, raising questions about where the money came from and where it was spent.
Mr. Lee also reportedly said he had briefed Mr. Roh immediately after he was elected about the contributors and the specifics of the contributions. In applying for a warrant, prosecutors told the court that Mr. Lee raised 3.26 billion won illegally. Did Mr. Roh know of the illicit funds? Based on Mr. Roh’s reaction to this issue, it is unlikely that he would confess. Thus, the prosecution must prove its case.
The Grand National Party said yesterday that Lee Hoi-chang camp received 9.52 billion won from businesses other than the top four companies and the Roh camp received 13.2 billion won. That latter figure could be exaggerated; some may have been bribes to individuals, not cash used to fund the election. But it is still a serious issue if the GNP’s accusations have some basis in fact. And comparing the amounts, it is not convincing that the Lee camp allegedly received 50.2 billion won from the top four firms but the Roh camp received nothing.
Mr. Roh has complained that he was pinching pennies while his opponents rolled in cash during the campaign. Mr. Roh had also said his campaign used no more than 10 percent of the GNP’s illicit cash. This matter is a political time bomb, and the prosecution must defuse it.
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